When the lineup for North Coast Music Festival was released, there was no artist I was more excited to see listed than The Budos Band. Their music is completely unlike anything getting airplay or indie blog attention right now. Listening to their recordings fill me with a swagger I was unaware I had. So as a geeked out fangirl, I jumped at the opportunity to speak with baritone saxophonist Jared Tankel of The Budos Band before they came into town Labor Day weekend.
Gozamos: Let me just start by saying how excited I am to be seeing you guys perform at North Coast. I wasn’t able to make it out when you were in Chicago last summer and I’ve been dying to catch a live performance. I’m pretty stoked.
Jared Tankel: Awesome, thanks.
So your music is like this funky mix of all these different elements. You’ve got a little bit of Latin, a little bit of Afro – how would you describe your sound?
We play sort of 70s-influenced instrumental music. The common thread that seems to go through all of the different genres that we incorporate is just like that decade.
Yeah, and it kinda sounds like something from a Tarantino film or a Blaxploitation film. Do you like that kind of stuff? Is that what you guys are inspired by or is it just a coincidence?
I think it’s more coincidental than anything. Given the opportunity, we’d love to offer up our music for something like that. But we’re not going for that as much as just maybe our influences are similar to what all that stuff is as well, and so it ends up kind of sounding like it.
Yeah, you guys would be a perfect fit. He should call you up for his next movie.
So what kind of artists would you say, past or present, are you inspired by?
When we first started out it was Fela Kuti, and James Brown, and Curtis Mayfield, stuff like that. More of an Ethiopian jazz influence. And then part of our sort of rock and roll influences, and I think it’s more subtle, but Black Sabbath is definitely something that we all love and sort of try to figure out ways to at least in some way incorporate that sound into what we’re doing. I think it’s starting to come through in sort of the drums, bass and guitar.
Okay, so The Budos Band. Where does the name Budos come from? I googled it and was like, I have no idea what this means.
Yeah, it doesn’t mean much of anything. Originally the name of the band was Los Barbudos, which means “the bearded ones” and our drummer came up with that name. He named it after Fidel Castro’s group in Cuba, and we all had beards, so it seemed to fit. When we started playing in New York, people were coming to shows and asking if we had some political agenda, like what was going on with the name and all this stuff. And you know, we’re an all instrumental band without lyrics, so it’s kind of hard for us to have a very overt “agenda” in our music, so we kind of decided that it wasn’t really what we were going for. We kind of wanted to take the focus away from that and focus more on the music that we were making. So from Los Barbudos came The Budos, and then we added Band because our record label, Daptone Records, had the idea, and also a lot of Afro-rock bands and Afro-beat bands have “band” in their name, sort of tagged on the end of their name.
You mentioned your record label, Daptone Records, which I think is one of the most important labels out there right now. There are a lot of interesting things going on there, and they’ve got the House of Soul, which to me just seems like this magical place out in Brooklyn. What’s it like?
Well the House of Soul, it’s kind of funny, it’s out in Bushwick, Brooklyn, which is kind of a little bit of a run down neighborhood in Brooklyn. It’s this old house that they’ve had a long term lease on, and they gutted the first floor and made it into a studio. The second floor is where they have their offices, so as a result it has a real Motown vibe to it. I think one of the best things about that place is it’s a real family of musicians; it really feels like a family. Everybody knows each other, everybody appreciates on some level what everybody else is doing musically and there’s also just a real communal spirit. It’s a real familial vibe to it, which I think contributes to the overall success of the label. And then obviously, the sound of the records is what’s famous. Gabe Ross, who’s one of the owners of the label and engineers and produces as well, he’s just done a great job of really staying true to that sound and refining his techniques to make sure that each record that they put out has that indescribable yet very recognizable sound quality that makes Daptone Records what it is.
So, I stumbled upon this thing on the Internet, called The Wudos Band, it’s like a mixtape mashing-up The Budos Band and the Wu Tang Clan. Have you guys heard this?
We’ve heard of it. We don’t really know much about it, other than probably what most people do. We just found it on a blog as well. It’s funny, because we’re based out of Staten Island, as is the Wu Tang Clan, so it’s kind of funny somebody put the two together and created this mash-up mixtape.
Alright, last question. Let’s bring it back to North Coast. It’s a primarily electro-heavy lineup, with few bands playing actual instruments on stage. That being said, are there any acts that the band is looking forward to seeing?
Usually when we play festivals we kind of stumble upon something we were necessarily expecting to see, or maybe even somebody we haven’t heard of yet. That’s usually the best for us. A lot of the time, we play festivals with people that we don’t know. You know, what we’re doing incorporates a lot of different things, but its kind of unique and there aren’t a lot of bands that do the same kind of music, so we’re always booked with some kind of music that isn’t necessarily what we are – whether it’s electro, or a world music festival, or a rock festival. So our general M.O. is to show up and have a good time and be open to being surprised by somebody else who’s at the festival.